I thank all Members who have participated in this debate. It is fair to say that local government finance is not always the thing that enthuses people, but what we have learned today is that finance is there for a purpose: to deliver essential public services—or, in the words of the Secretary of State, “vital services on which we all depend.” To be fair though, that is probably where the Secretary of State’s understanding ends. He gets the principle, but not the true impact of austerity.
The best preparation for this debate would have been completely wasted because it would have missed the gift that keeps on giving, which is that the Secretary of State’s testbed for local government seems to be the sinking of the Titanic—a vessel that went out 106 years ago not fit for the journey ahead, without enough life rafts for the people on it and completely misunderstanding that there was iceberg ahead and the damage that it would cause. Now, Northamptonshire might be the tip of the iceberg in local government terms, but the truth is that many councils are really struggling beneath the surface.
We have heard from my hon. Friends the Members for Garston and Halewood (Maria Eagle), for Bradford West (Naz Shah), for Reading East (Matt Rodda), for Stockton North (Alex Cunningham), for Dulwich and West Norwood (Helen Hayes), for Bedford (Mohammad Yasin), for Glasgow North East (Mr Sweeney) and for Leeds North West (Alex Sobel). The thing that ran through all those contributions was the human and community cost of taking money from public services. We hear that 64% of the Government grant has been taken away in Liverpool. That is not just a number on a balance sheet. It was money for essential services that existed to support a community that needed support to grow, develop and prosper. But that rug has been completely pulled from under the people of Liverpool.
We heard from my hon. Friend the Member for Reading East that local councils have very little clarity about what is heading towards them beyond 2020. It is true that many came forward as part of the multi-year settlement, but it is also true that the fair funding settlement is sending shivers down the spine of many local councils because they know exactly what it means. We saw it with the deletion of the area-based grant in 2010, when money directed at areas of high deprivation was completely taken away. Over recent years, the introduction of the transition grant and the rural services delivery grant have targeted mainly Tory shires. We know what fair funding really means to the Government.